Wading in the Water . . .
The Heritage Signature Chorale circa 2006. Photo by Caesar
Established in 2000 by Musical Director Stanley J. Thurston, Heritage Signature Chorale (HSC) performs a broad repertoire of choral music. What makes HSC unique among Washington DC choruses is its devotion to performing African-American music, with a special emphasis on the Negro spiritual. The group is also committed to enhancing music education by distributing complementary tickets for performances to local young musicians as well as providing performance opportunities for emerging singers and musicians.
In a 2005 Washington Post article, HSC singer Rufus Daniels, the grandson of a slave, spoke about his deep connection to the chorale's traditional repertoire. "[Spirituals are] as much a part of me as my fingers and toes. They were created, in part, by my very family. I can remember my grandmother telling me about the conditions they lived in, and singing these songs in church as a child. . . . They express what might be called the soul of a people."
As reported in the NEA's 2007 annual report, HSC received an NEA Access to Artistic Excellence grant to support a recording and performance of The Ordering of Moses, a rarely performed oratorio composed by R. Nathaniel Dett. Dett was an African-American composer, pianist, and choral director born in 1882, who published approximately 100 compositions of which many---including The Ordering of Moses---were inspired by African-American spirituals. There is only one other known recording of The Ordering of Moses, and it is an incomplete live radio recording of the oratorio's world debut. HSC's performance of Dett's oratorio was recorded by National Public Radio and distributed by Albany Records, with program notes by musicologist Dominique-Rene de Lerma.
Recently, HSC has been celebrating its 10th-anniversary season with an appearnce at the American Guild of Organists conference, a performance of Carmina Burana with the Alexandria Symphony and Metropolitan Chorus, and a performance of Porgy and Bess with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, among other events.
Visit the Heritage Signature Chorale website to learn more about this DC favorite.